Assertive is putting forward positively and with confidence your thoughts and ideas, even in the face of adversity.  Aggressive is putting forward your thoughts and ideas in a combative readiness state. The difference between the two is that being assertive allows others to see where you clearly stand BUT also allows them to feel justified in having an opinion or thought that differs. While being aggressive comes off as it is “your way or the highway” and can often make others feel “wrong” to have an opinion that differs from yours.

So how can you tell the difference?  If you are being aggressive, people will remain silent after you talk or they will move right to argue with you.  If you are a manager, you will shortly find yourself surrounded by “yes” people.  If you are assertive, people will be thoughtful, ask questions and challenge you but you will rarely see them square their shoulders, lift their chin and stare defiantly at you.

Also, if you fall into the “aggressive category” you most likely are a Producer.  Producers desire to have control over their area and at times inflict themselves on others inappropriately.

At meetings, are you the first to speak up? Do you often interrupt others? Do you make body signs that show you disagree with another person? (These body signs would include grunting, tapping a pen, shuffling papers while the other person is talking, rolling your eyes, crossing your arms, looking away, glaring or crossing your arms)

If you do, try:

  •  Listening with your head tilted to one side, as this will increase your listening and make the other person feel accepted and not judged.
  • Asking for others opinions BEFORE offering your own
  • Offering your thoughts and ideas prefaced by “What if we…?” or “Could we look at it from…” “I was thinking…” This will allow others to take in what you are saying without feeling shut off.
  • If you disagree with someone, “Tell me this…” “How does that fit with…?” “Can you share with me how…?” “I understood that we were trying to do… and if that is true then, how does…..?”